You’ve probably heard of Sarah Coventry, but how much do you really know about the brand? Perhaps you spied pieces of Sarah Coventry jewelry in your mother or grandmother’s jewelry box. Maybe you even inherited some.
If you’re an antique seller, you may have sold a few pieces along the way, but in today’s Sarah Coventry collecting guide we’ll take a close look at the the company’s origins, see a variety of examples, and discuss their values.
This guide will help you make informed decisions when selling the brand.
Table of Contents
History of Sarah Coventry Jewelry
Sarah Coventry history spans a 130 year period. It all began with C.W. Stuart and his purchase of a 60 acres fruit tree nursery in Newark, NY. He chose to sell these products door-to-door and thus began several generations of “direct marketing” businesses that he and his heirs would own and manage.
NOTE: Newark is also known for rose growers, Perkins & Jackson (now located in California), earning the hamlet the moniker “Rose Capital of the World.” I’m led to believe that the beautiful rose garden they established remains.
C.H. Stuart Company
C.W.’s son, C.H. “Harry” Stuart expanded the business to include several other direct marketing endeavours, like Home Decorators, Inc., which sold the hugely successful Russel Wright line of Melmac dishware. Harry renamed the parent company C.H. Stuart Company.
Emmons & Sarah Coventry (1949)
Harry’s son, Lyman Stuart worked with his father at the company and started two separate jewelry businesses–in the same year–under the parent company: (1) Caroline Emmons, Inc. named after his grandmother and (2) Sarah Coventry, Inc. after his granddaughter, Sarah Coventry Beale.
Why did Lyman start two jewelry businesses? According to a Finger Lakes Times article, he wanted to pit them against each other for some “healthy” competition.
Lyman appointed his son, Bill Stuart, as president of Sarah Coventry, and as near as I can tell, he remained in this position until the company goes bankrupt in 1981.
It would be Sarah Coventry, rather than Emmons that captured the imagination of women everywhere and become as popular during its heighday as Coca Cola and the Beatles.
Sarah Coventry Timeline
- (1864) C.W. Stuart buys a fruit tree/bush nursery in Newark, NY and sell them door-to-door, calling the business C.W. Stuart Company. He’s married to Caroline Emmons Stuart.
- His son, C.H. “Harry” Stuart, renames the business C.H. Stuart Company and broadens the brand to include more than fruit trees.
- His son, Lyman Stuart, becomes CEO of C.H. Stuart Company. He starts Emmons Jewelry, Inc. and Sarah Coventry, Inc. in 1949. He has a granddaughter named Sarah Coventry Beale.
- (1949) His son, C.W. “Bill” Stuart becomes CEO of Sarah Coventry with great success.
- (1960’s) Used hand-held mirror tag with “SarahCov” on one side and “SC” on the other.
- (1970’s) Used diamond tag with “SarahCov.”
- (1981) Emmons goes bankrupt.
- (1984) Sarah Coventry goes bankrupt.
- (1987) Lifestyle Brands, a Canadian company buys Sarah Coventry.
- (1996) Lifestyle tries to jumpstart home parties but fails.
- (2002) Sarah Coventry sold on HSN (Home Shopping Network) with “SC” mark.
- (2003) Investor group buys Sarah Coventry and tries to jumpstart the party plan (2004-08).
- (2016) Pavan USA buys Sarah Coventry.
- (2018-21) Pavana sells jewelry marked “Sarah Coventry.”
Jewelry Design & Manufacture
Unlike many costume jewelry companies at the time, Trifari for example, both Emmons and Sarah Coventry purchased designs from freelancers.
They then had their stock manufactured by jewelry companies in Rhode Island and New Hampshire rather than design and produce their own in-house, Collector’s Weekly.
They chose an abundance of mid-level quality, lower-priced pieces in a variety of styles that immediately appealed to middle-class women around the country, and the world.
Over the years they produced some pieces designed by some big names, DeLizza & Elster, for example.
The Home Party Business Model
Right from the start, the Stuart family dynasty adopted a philosophy of business that would cut out the middle man. They wanted to sell directly to buyers. At first they used the door-to-door salesman method for many of their products, before turning to home parties for their jewelry.
Modeled after Tupperware and Avon, Emmons and Sarah Coventry jewelry was sold exclusively through home parties by independent sales reps known as “Fashion Show Directors.” Initially only men served as directors, but that all changed in 1955.
Below is a video advertisement depicting a home party and some Sarah Coventry jewelry.
Advertising & Outreach
Sarah Coventry advertised profusely in women’s magazines, like Vogue and on television, too. In addition, the parties themselves acted as the best sort of advertisement with hostesses “educating” their friends by inviting them to parties.
Game shows like the Price is Right offered Sarah Coventry jewelry as prizes, spreading the word to its target audience (middle class women) and increasing its desirability.
The New York Times referred to their jewelry as “the stuff of fairy tales, fit for a princess.” In fact, the company created stunning crowns for a number of beauty queens, including Miss Universe(!). This gave the brand world-wide name recognition.
Sarah Coventry Jewelry Examples & Values
As mentioned previously, Sarah Coventry jewelry tended to fall into a middle-ground in terms of quality and cost. Most pieces were constructed of gold or silver tone metal with faux gemstones made of plasic (thermoset) or glass.
“Northern Lights” bracelet (1973): Sold on ebay recently for $30 + shipping
“Royal Ballet” bracelet (1960): Sold for $19.50 recently on eBay
“Summer Magic” brooch (1964): Sold for $10.99 + shipping recently on eBay
“Vogue” brooch (1960): Sold recently on eBay for $9.95 + shipping
“Water Lily” brooch (1960): Sold for $14.00 + shipping recently on eBay. A set, including a brooch and pair of clip on earrings sold for $20.50.
“Bamboo Twig” Pins (1970’s): The letter “N” sold recently on eBay for $16.99 + shipping
“Satin Petals” clip on earrings (1964): Sold recently on eBay for $12.35 + shipping
“Vienna” clip on earrings in their original box (1964): Sold on eBay for $24.95 + shipping
“Catherine” pendant necklace (1970’s): Sold for $20 on eBay
A necklace similar to this “Tri-Fashion” one (1973): Sold for $14 on eBay
“Chinese Modern” pendant necklace (1964): Sold for $16.99 on eBay
“Austrian Lites” Ring (1970’s): Sold on eBay recently for $24.95. The entire set sold for $61.00. (Notice spelling in the photo above is incorrect, should be “Lites.”)
“Gay Pretenders” Ring (1962): Sold on eBay recently for $12.50.
“Shadow Cameo” Ring (1972): Similar SC cameo rings have sold recently on eBay for $15-20.
“Pearl Bloom” Brooch & Earring Set (1965): Sold recently on eBay for $39.95 + shipping. The brooch on its own sold recently on eBay for just $12.99.
“Strawberry Ice” Brooch & Earring Set (1968): Sold recently on eBay for $19.99. Individually the pieces sell for just $3-5 each.
Sarah Coventry Marks
With the exception of some very early pieces, Sarah Coventry jewelry is almost always marked. They used several marks, most involving some variation of their name.
Despite the fact that many “authorities” have attributed dates to certain of the marks, I have not found a consistent pattern that would allow me to make any such claims. And in fact, the date ranges are so close to each other as to be mostly unhelpful in the long run.
Above you see five examples of Sarah Coventry marks:
- SC imprinted on an oval or triangular cartouche
- ©SARAH COV
Exceptions to this rule include the hang tags you see above, for which we can assign dates:
- Diamond Tag: 1970’s
- Hand Mirror Tag (double-sided): 1960’s
The jewelry that most collectors look for dates to the 1949-81 period when the family controlled the business. Pieces produced after those dates, near as I can tell, would be marked “SC” or “Sarah Coventry.”
Sarah Coventry Values
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Most pieces of Sarah Coventry jewelry fall in the $10 to $50 value range. Expect simple designs made of gold or silver tone metal to bring lower amounts than colorful pieces made up of numerous faux gemstones.
The Blue Lagoon pieces above, replete with large aurora borealis marquis stones, dates to 1964 and serves as a good example of a highly sought after set. A similar brooch and earring pair sold on eBay recently for $71, including shipping.
Unique hostess gifts, produced in smaller quantities and given to women who sponsored parties in their homes, tend to bring higher prices due to their rarity.
One of the best ways to value your SC jewelry is to check eBay sold listings.
If you’re like me and enjoy having hard-copy guidebooks on hand, you may want to pick up one or more of these guidebooks to help with identification and values:
- Identifying Sarah Coventry Jewelry 1949-2009 (2012)
- Sarah Coventry Jewelry (2003)
- Sarah Coventry Jewelry: An Unauthorized Guide for Collectors (1998)
How to Buy & Sell Sarah Coventry Jewelry
You many be wondering whether you should bother with Sarah Coventry. I can report that hundreds of pieces of Sarah Coventry jewelry sell on eBay every month.
I recommend looking for plain pieces in the $1-2 range and jeweled piece for $3-5. Here are some categories of Sarah Coventry that I keep an eye out for,
- Pieces with gems
- Sets of two or more pieces
- Large lots of jewelry
- Those in original boxes
Above are a couple of examples of original, Sarah Coventry packaging. The first is a flat, round plastic container and the second is a traditional cardboard box.
When it comes time to list, do your research! Learn the names of the pieces. This allows avid Sarah Coventry fans to easily find your listings for jewelry they want to add to their collections.
The Sarah Coventry & Emmons Jewelry Identification and History Facebook group, run by Erik makes a large number of catalogs available right on their page. Click on “Media” in the navigation bar and then “Albums” to find them.
The dated catalogs contain photos that allow you to identify what you have. As a member of the group you can share your finds and get help with identification.
In addition, create compelling listings. In particular, take photographs that sell. This means high quality, close up photos that make the potential buyers feel as though they’re holding the item in their hands.
The Sarah Coventry company established itself as a world-wide company using the party method of sales and through extensive advertising and product placements.
Whether you collect Sarah Coventry jewelry, re-sell it, or hope to re-sell it, I think we can all agree that the sense of nostalgia it evokes in combination with its pretty designs make it a vintage category worth consideration.
Tell me in the comments about your experiences with this famous brand of jewelry.
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